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THE BIG INTERVIEW: Instant Wonder ‘more than just a retail store’ says Swarovski CEO

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Not unlike the rest of the world, Swarovski – manufacturer of crystal products as well as jewellery and watch brand and retailer – has found itself conducting the vast majority of its business online over the last 14 months.

Fortunately, the company has fared brilliantly during this most confusing of years thanks in large part to its digital sales.

“E-commerce has been performing well,” explains Hayley Quinn, the company’s managing director for the UK and Ireland. Just over a year ago she spoke with PJ, lamenting the fact that Swarovski had somewhat lost out on its chance to celebrate its 125th anniversary. It seems she quickly got over that loss, however, and set about bolstering the business’s online offering in order to survive the pandemic.

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Turning her attention to 2021 next, she says: “There continues to be an appetite for online shopping as shown throughout 2020 – and it is a hugely important part of the UK business. Our website has recently been transformed in line with the new brand vision, and it serves as a source of inspiration and wonder as well as a place to shop.”

This sort of talk, discussing website improvements and e-commerce growth, has become the norm for companies across the entire retail sector in the past year, though.

Every business with an online offering has seen some sort of digital growth because shoppers were forced online when stores closed. What is unusual about Swarovski, then, is that the brand has spent so much of the last year focusing on its bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

Back in February of this year, Swarovski made the announcement that it would be giving a complete overhaul to its brand image, including a newly redesigned swan logo, as well as the opening of a whole host of new concept stores around the world.

“To coincide with the launch our first new jewellery collection,” says CEO Robert Buchbauer, “we have reimagined around 30 of our stores in key fashion cities to immerse customers in her creative vision.

Creative director Giovanna Engelbert and CEO Robert Buchbauer

“Designed to reflect the brand’s upcoming campaign and new visual identity, guests will be welcomed into a sensorial retail space enhanced by vibrant colors and textures, metallic sculptures, and innovative materials that work together to encourage exploration and self-expression.”

All of this is orchestrated under the guidance of creative director Giovanna Engelbert, who is pioneering the opening of the 28 new Swarovski Instant Wonder stores.

The first opened in Milan’s Galleria in February, with stores fast following in Paris in March and New York City in April. Next will be the concept’s UK debut with “a much-anticipated opening in London’s renowned luxury fashion hub, Covent Garden”, says CEO Robert Buchbauer.

In-store Wonder
But what is an Instant Wonder shop and how does it differ from Swarovski’s usual stores? Hayley Quinn explains: “We are very proud to bring to life our new brand identity through our Instant Wonder store that will open in Covent Garden in the second quarter of 2021.

“Designed to reflect the brand’s campaign and new visual identity, guests will be welcomed into a sensorial retail space enhanced by vibrant colours, textures, and innovative materials that work together to encourage curiosity and self-expression – it’s an experience our customers have never seen before.”

She calls the spaces “more than just a retail store” and adds that the Instant Wonder locations “realise a sense of joyful wonder for the customer, a candy-like dreamscape filled with the full spectrum of crystal lifestyle pieces – jewellery, watches, figurines and accessories” and are “furnished with a captivating backdrop of Swarovski’s octagonal logo silhouette, created from our new packaging”.

Wonderlab embodies everything Swarovski stands for and is a place for inspiration for years to come.”

Going into loving detail, Quinn concludes: “Our Instant Wonder walls will be lined from floor to ceiling in octagonal boxes to create a monochromatic, repeating motif that encourages exploration.

In addition, a series of metallic-cast busts replace traditional jewellery display stands, experimenting with form, scale, and representation to turn everyday situations into opportunities for self-expression.

“Each character, named and scanned from life, has been created using innovative 3D technology in poses representing moments of joyful play. From every vantage point, Swarovski’s ambition is to create an immersive entry into its world of wonder, leaving a lasting and inspired impression for all.”

Swarovski Wonderlab
Given how ambitious the entire project is, it would be easy to forget that it is part of a wider brand overhaul. So what will that look like and what will it mean for the company and its customers?

Buchbauer says of the brand’s thinking behind the fantastical concept: “’Ignite your dreams’ is the new rallying call for a Swarovski world set in an imaginary Wonderlab concept.

“Swarovski’s first ever creative director, Giovanna Engelbert, envisions the modern crystal as a radically inclusive laboratory of creativity that invites the world to celebrate individuality and partake in the fantasy.

“Wonderlab embodies everything Swarovski stands for and is a place for inspiration for years to come; it is where science and magic meets, extra and elegance collides, and the feeling of wonder is evoked.”

The CEO adds: “With an explosive approach to colour, size and styling, the new vision manifests beyond product into new experiences, events and new store concepts across the globe, transforming the way Swarovski is perceived with a radical new vision for generations to come.”

Despite the 28 dedicated Instant Wonder stores either already come to life or otherwise very much in the pipeline, the company confirms to PJ that the Wonderlab rebrand will affect all existing and future stores too, as well as online.

“Our new brand vision will be communicated at every Swarovski touchpoint,” explains Quinn. “Our website, social channels and retail stores will continue to amplify our elevated brand identity.

The vision manifests beyond product into new experiences, events and new store concepts across the globe.”

“We’ll be executing a communications plan, which spans partnerships, digital and social media, influencer engagement, as well as inspiring our current and new customers via our newsletters and Swarovski Club membership.”

As though that were not enough, Swarovski has recently recommitted to its long-term ethical and sustainability goals, with Buchbauer declaring, “We cannot return to business as usual” as the Covid-19 crisis settles down.

In a letter he explained the company’s full intentions: “For Swarovski, igniting dreams also includes championing inclusion, diversity, and care for the environment, and creating actionable goals that turn those dreams into reality.”

This begins with the brand’s pledge to “significantly reduce GHG emissions across the full value chain”.

The letter added: “This and all commitments will be followed by further concrete, measurable targets later in the year.”

What those targets are we look forward to finding out, and while we are perhaps left with as many questions as answers regarding the massive brand overhaul promised, we at least in the meantime have the London Instant Wonder store to think about.

With one final word about the Wonderlab concept, Buchbauer concludes: “Our 126-year history is witness for the power of our company to transform and reinvent itself while always staying true to its DNA.

“We are excited to add a new chapter to this tremendous success story by lifting Swarovski’s center of gravity to accessible luxury and by truly becoming a crystal lifestyle.”

ONLY THE BEGINNING

In an impassioned letter earlier this year, CEO Robert Buchbauer made clear his and Swarovski’s intentions to recommit to the business’ sustainability goals as it looks beyond the pandemic. Here is Buchbauer’s letter in full:

On the heels of unveiling its bold new vision, branding, and Wonderlab campaign, Swarovski announces a renewed sustainability ambition.

This new brand world offers a collective and personal invitation to ‘ignite your dreams’ – an empowering and individual statement that encourages curiosity, exploration, and a sense of joyful wonder in all.

For Swarovski, igniting dreams also includes championing inclusion, diversity, and care for the environment, and creating actionable goals that turn those dreams into reality.

Sustainability efforts have been a part of Swarovski’s DNA since its founding in 1895 and, since then, Swarovski has made notable strides in its ambition to address the world’s most pressing issues.

In today’s global climate, however, the time has come for [its] actions to be bigger, bolder, and more concrete.

CEO Robert Buchbauer

With that in mind, Swarovski reinforces its sustainability mission through six key commitment focuses: greenhouse gas emissions, conscious materials, empowerment and education, waste and circular economy, equality, diversity and inclusion, and of course respect for our people.

As every action begins with a first step, Swarovski is proud to share CEO Robert Buchbauer’s letter of address, outlining the brand’s first set of commitments, including alignment with Science Based Targets.

By joining this initiative, Swarovski manifests the intent to significantly reduce [its] GHG emissions across the full value chain.

This and all commitments will be followed by further concrete, measurable targets later in the year.

Progress on the new sustainability journey will continue to be documented across digital channels and published in the sustainability reports.

Commitments to uphold this enhanced sustainability vision will be live on April 22nd, 2021. This is only the beginning.

Robert Buchbauer, CEO

Tags : giovanna engelbertInstant WonderRobert BuchbauerSwarovski
Sam Lewis

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